It's been a few weeks since the last update so I figured I better get some time of communication out to prove I'm still alive!
Not a lot of photos since the last update but I thought I'd start off with this shot that I took the other day on my way to work...
Work has been quiet the past couple weeks since it's Ramadan. During Ramadan we don't have any classes since the Muslim employees work shortened days. More on Ramadan in a minute or two.
I am now fully certified in 2 courses, as I got certified last week in the Situational Leadership course by Blanchard. A very impactful course.
Now I'm working on a project of enhancing the on boarding for new hires, as our team has recently hired 5 new hires and looking for more.
A cool fact - Aramco has a budget of over $1 billion in training per year. That is the second highest of any organization in the world, next to the US Military. Crazy! Did I mention that in a previous post? I can't remember.
Lisa is enjoying her stay with Avi & Michele ("the foster parents"...thanks for putting up with her guys!! Now you know what I have to deal with. Haha) and it sounds and looks like they had a great trip to Anita's cottage waaaaay up north! Looked like trouble.
Our home is officially sold, money is in the bank. We now provide our home sale bill to Aramco and they provide is a pretty hefty cheque for the home sale. Gonna miss that house - had some amazing times there. So many pics & memories of crazy hat parties, gold medal bashes, 4am tequila shots (and that was breakfast!), and I believe there are some hot tub videos with a singalong party. Ah yes, good ol' 22 Cranberry Mews. Love it! Will miss our amazing neighbours as well! Couldn't ask for better people!
Our remaining items are now packed and if they haven't left already, they will be shipping soon. We have 4 "e-boxes" that get air shipped and should be here within a month (mostly kitchen items and some stuff we need sooner). We also have 2300 lbs of other "stuff". Not sure what made the cut after Lisa's fire sale. That shipment comes over the ocean on a ship.
Based on those shipments and the weight of the shipment, Aramco also gives us a big cheque that we could use to re-purchase items, or just bank it.
Lisa received her passport back from Houston via FedEx and it now has a fancy Saudi Visa in it so she is good to go! She leaves Calgary on Sunday June 26th and flies to Amsterdam with Charlie. They have a 6 hour layover and Charlie gets put up in a 'pet hotel'. WTF! Lisa and Char arrive Monday the 27th at 9:45PM in Dammam airport. Can't wait to see them! It's only been 2 months but feels like forever! I'll take the next day off to show Lisa around. She will be doing the next update to tell everyone about her first impressions of Saudi! Then I have July 5-9 off so I'm sure we'll tour around and hit up the beach!
July & August are supposed to be the crazy summer months in Saudi where it gets humid and the temp gets over 50 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit for our US friends). Many people take off or go on vacation then but Lisa will be thrown 'right into the fire'...literally!
I am so happy with the place we are in. It's very safe (security guards outside with big machine guns), has everything we need, and filled with good people. We're also 10 minutes from the big mall, the corniche (beach, restaurant) area. We can also be in Bahrain in 15 minutes from here (mmm....cold beer). Many ladies groups for Lisa - yoga, spin class, zumba, pilates, kickboxing, body pump (sounds dirty), fitness trainers, shopping buses. Plus a spa with salon, massages, mani/pedi. What a life!
OK, I've referred to Ramadan earlier & in previous posts. It is a month long celebration for Muslims and it has a big impact on expats too, as store hours are affected big time. Many stores are only open 1-5 and then they open 10pm-2am and I hear the malls are crazy busy at this time.
My car sales guy wanted me to meet him at 10pm to pick the colours. Sorry...not gonna happen! How about I just tell you over the phone?
Here are some points to know about Ramadan. To my Muslim friends, please correct me if I have made any mistakes or missed anything...
It is the 9th month of the Hijri or lunar calendar(which is 11-12 days shorter that our typical Gregorian calendar). Therefore, Ramadan is earlier every year.
The significance of Ramadan?
- it is the month that the Qur'an (holy book of Islam) was released
- it is a special month of fasting, repentance, increased prayer, and increased charity
- it ends with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr - a day of celebration & gratitude (which is why I get the first week
of July off)
Fasting is obligatory to all adult Muslims except those who are exempt. Children are exempt but it is mandatory once they hit puberty. Other exemptions include unhealthy adults, adults travelling long distances, women who are menstruating, in post-child birth care, pregnant, or breast feeding.
It is to attain taqwa ("God consciousness")
Fasting starts at sunrise and ends with sunset, so the long summer days can be tough on them.
It helps Muslims draw closer to God through increased reflection of the Qur'an and increased prayer.
Fasting aids in the increase of faith and righteousness and also helps purify the heart & soul, helping one's character. It trains the person to do good things - charity, kindness, generosity, forgiveness.
Ramadan has a tremendous influx of people to the Kingdom, as many Muslims make their pilgrimage to Makkah, which they are all required to do at least once in their lifetime.
During Ramadan you greet people with "Ramadan Kareem" and at the end during the Eid celebrations, you use "Eid Mubarak".
Non-Muslims are asked to refrain from eating or drinking in public places during daylight. In fact, the ministry stated 2 years ago that they would deport you if caught eating or drinking in public during daylight.
OK, as mentioned in a previous post...I didn't even think my vacation days would kick in this year since I'm new but yes they do. So here we go...
Sept.9-16 - we booked a flight to Rome and will figure out a game plan soon. Lisa is gaining many ideas from Avi & Michele since they've lived there twice before. Probably some sightseeing in Rome - Vatican, Coliseum, etc. combined with some wine, pasta, pizza. Peroni. Then we may take the train to Naples, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, Venice. As mentioned before - Lisa is the travel director so she is in charge of that.
Oct.17-23 - we booked into a Greek all-inclusive resort on the island of Crete near Heraklion. Should be some great food and drinks. Mmmm...calamari, souvlaki, greek ribs, tzaziki, sambuca.
OK, so where are they in relation to us? Here's the map. We live in Zamil Village compound on the east coast of Saudi Arabia (the red dot!)
Nov.21-26 - have vacation here but nothing booked yet. Stay tuned!
And yes Mark, I will be recruiting for the T&A Travel Group for all these trips.
OK, here are the temporary bookings so far...nothing set in stone yet....but should be finalized within a week or so. These are my vacations but Lisa may come earlier or stay later. Slacker!
Feb.13-March 1 - T&A Travel Group - details within 3 weeks. We will have a Skype call with Mark & Gayle, the other Executive Members and will decide on Dominican or Jamaica. Hope to see everyone there!
June 19-July 5 - nothing booked here yet. Bali? Maldives? Sri Lanka? Africa?
Aug.14-Sept.13 - my annual "repat" (repatriation) trip where the company pays for it. We will come back home and hope to see friends and family!
Still need to book 3 more weeks in the year.
Should be a wild ride...
I'll end this long-winded blog (sorry guys!) with a special shout out to all the amazing dads out there. Thanks for all that you do and a special THANK YOU and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to my Dad back in Shaunavon. Hope you are doing good and hope you can get out here to visit soon.
I'll end this with a kick ass video that my old company Mark's has made. It captures the thoughts that every person has towards their Father. Enjoy your day guys!
Cheers for now...
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa